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TV Review: True Detective - Season 3

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SYNOPSIS: Playing out in three separate time periods, the new season tells the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks, and a mystery that deepens over decades. Mahershala Ali stars as Arkansas state police detective Wayne Hays, who originally investigated the crime, with Stephen Dorff starring as Roland West, the detective who investigated the case with Hays, and Carmen Ejogo starring as schoolteacher and writer Amelia Reardon.

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REVIEW: It has been over three years since the second season of True Detective premiered on HBO. A critical failure in comparison to the brilliant first season, Nic Pizzolatto's mystery anthology looked like it may never come back for a third chapter. But, after taking some time to develop a worthwhile story, we have this new tale that employs the shifting narrative periods of the first season but taken to a new level of complexity. Starring Mahershala Ali, Carmen Ejogo, and Stephen Dorff, the newest noir tale easily proves that Pizzolatto was no one-trick pony. If you loved the Matthew McConaughey and Woodly Harrelson led first season, you are going to love this one. While similar enough in tone and style to remind you of the series you are watching, the third season sets itself apart with some stellar acting from top to bottom. Not even two weeks into 2019 and we already have one of the best shows of the year.

Set in 1980, 1990, and 2015, the third season of True Detective plays like a cross between last year's Sharp Objects mini-series and the film MEMENTO. Led by Mahershala Ali's character, Detective Wayne Hays, the series shifts between the three time periods almost seamlessly. Hays is a war veteran who suffers from advancing memory loss and his attachment to the case central this season calls into question whether he can trust his own mind or not. It is an intriguing way to approach the story because each season has dealt with characters who for one reason or another have a broken part of themselves that betrays their honor. Hays is far from being a clean and upstanding cop even though he desperately wants to be.and the stress of this one case alters the rest of his life forever.

Having seen five of the eight episodes this season, I can say that it will be a shock if Mahershala Ali doesn't nab an Emmy for his work here. Always a solid actor in everything from THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON and his Oscar-winning turn in MOONLIGHT to his extended stint on House of Cards, Ali has never been given such a showcase like this. Dissecting how the case impacts Hays over three different points in his life offers a challenge which Ali embraces completely as you sympathize with and despise his character and the actions he takes both personally and professionally. Hays is the perfect protagonist for True Detective since he shares many traits with Matthew McConaughey's Rust Cohle and Colin Farrell's Ray Velcoro.

The entire supporting cast here is excellent including Scoot McNairy (ARGO, BATMAN V SUPERMAN) as a grieving father, Mamie Gummer (RICKI AND THE FLASH) as his estranged wife, Sarah Gadon (COSMOPOLIS) as a crime reporter working with Hays in 2015, Ray Fisher (JUSTICE LEAGUE) as Hays' son, and Michael Greyes (Fear the Walking Dead) as a veteran and suspect in the case. But, as previously mentioned, the standout work here comes from Carmen Ejogo (FANTASTIC BEASTS, ALIEN COVENANT) as Hays' wife Amelia and Stephen Dorff (BLADE) as Hays' partner, Roland West. Both Ejogo and Dorff have a great chemistry with Mahershala Ali and spend almost equal screen time in this byzantine story. Where Dorff and Ali share a similar dynamic to McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in the first season, Dorff's no-nonsense portrayal of Roland West is understated but may be one of the best performances of his career. Ejogo, for that same matter, has a less flashy role here but owns every scene she is in.

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What sets this season of True Detective apart from either of the previous runs is that the crime here is not merely being investigated as much as it is being unraveled. Each episode delves further into each time period but you never quite get enough information to put all the pieces together. Solving the mystery becomes a challenge as you are forced to question whether or not any of the characters can be trusted, especially their memories. Events are hinted at but not immediately explained which will have you searching each episode to try and figure out who is responsible for the awful crimes being investigated. Kudos goes to Nic Pizzolatto who got some help from David Milch (Deadwood, NYPD Blue) whose experience with crime stories imbues True Detective with a lot more realism that either previous season.

Like any good anthology, the third season of True Detective holds up the style and themes that Nick Pizzolatto intended but definitely is closer to the stellar first season. With an outstanding cast delivering memorable performances, this is bound to reinvigorate the fanbase that felt disenchanted by the second season. Between this, GREEN BOOK, and ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, Mahershala Ali continues to prove that he is one of the most talented actors working today and can handle virtually any genre. True Detective has always felt familiar and original at the same time and this season is bound to lull viewers into a story that may seem eerily familiar but then suckerpunches you with an enthralling case that will leave you feeling like you are hunting the killer yourself. The only thing that will leave you frustrated is not being able to binge all eight episodes from day one.

The third season of True Detective premieres on HBO on Sunday, January 13th.

Source: JoBlo.com

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